Steve Nash, 2 others back in practice

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers' long-awaited cavalry finally came in Thursday.

Or at least part of it.

Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar returned to the practice floor, providing the point guard-depleted Lakers a sudden boon in the backcourt.

All three guards are ruled out for the Lakers' next game against the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday, but Nash said he could play as soon as Tuesday at the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Blake (right elbow) and Farmar (left hamstring) could follow shortly thereafter.

"Tomorrow is definitely out, but next week I have extremely high hopes to play," Nash said after going through the first half of Lakers practice Thursday without any limitations.

Nash exited at halftime of the Lakers' loss to Minnesota on Nov. 10 and has not played since because of nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings. He is averaging 6.7 points and 4.8 assists in six games this season while shooting 26.1 percent from the field. He has two years remaining on his contract with the Lakers, set to pay him $9.4 million this season and $9.7 million in 2014-15.

The two-time MVP is the oldest active player in the NBA. He will turn 40 next week when the Lakers play the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 7.

Nash has appeared in just 56 of the Lakers' 128 regular-season games since L.A. acquired him from Phoenix in the summer of 2012 for four draft picks -- first rounders in 2013 and '15 and second rounders in 2013 and '14.

"This has been the hardest thing I've ever faced in my career," Nash said. "Ever since I broke my leg, nothing's been the same. Nothing's been easy. But I also look for challenges in life, so this is a great opportunity for me to learn about myself and try to fight through it and hopefully on the other side, I'll be a better person."

Nash is fresh off a 12-day minicamp of sorts with his personal trainer, Rich Celebrini, in Vancouver, British Columbia -- his fourth such trip of the season -- while the Lakers were on their seven-game "Grammys" road trip.

"I can withstand more demands," Nash said of his improvement. "More contact, more unpredictable factors -- change of direction, playing against somebody -- those are all things that the nerve and the spine weren't able to handle two weeks ago."

Nash, who was sporting a lumberjack-like beard, says he knows he's not out of the woods yet.

"A couple more days of practice will be, I think crucial for me," Nash said. "I got to take it day by day. A month or so ago I was here, practiced three days in a row, felt really good and then two days later for whatever reason the nerve was pretty fired up again, so I just want to take it day by day. The fact that I got through one day of practice is a positive."

Blake, out since Dec. 10, said he is still dealing with pain in the back of his elbow when he shoots.

Farmar, sidelined since Dec. 31, said he is being cautious with his return timeline because this is the second hamstring tear he's had to deal with this season.

"It's kind of weird that they're all kind of coming back at the same time," Lakers center Pau Gasol said. "It's a weird coincidence, but I'm just happy to see guys being on the floor and with our three main point guards finally back, let's see where that kind of puts Kendall (Marshall)."

The silver lining to the trio's coinciding injuries has been the play of Marshall. The D-League call-up has averaged 12.0 points and 11.5 assists while shooting 46.2 percent on 3-pointers as a starter in their stead.

As for the rest of the Lakers' injury ledger, Gasol sat out Thursday's practice with a lingering groin issue but is listed as probable for Friday. Jodie Meeks (sore right foot) is also probable.

Kobe Bryant (left knee fracture) will be re-evaluated sometime around the All-Star break.

Xavier Henry (bone bruise in his right knee) is still a "couple of weeks" away from a potential return, according to coach Mike D'Antoni.

The Lakers (16-30) have lost 17 of their last 20 games, putting them just a half-game ahead of the Sacramento Kings (15-30) for last place in the Western Conference.